Exit Sandman

Thievery feels like part of the human condition: if someone owns something, chances are there is someone else out there who is willing to steal it. Almost every single one of us knows somebody who has had something stolen from them, be it a car, television, or sand.

Yes, sand. Or, more correctly, a beach.

In the spring of 2008, developers in Coral Springs, Jamaica were building a resort. Like any other Caribbean getaway, a focal point of the destination was its beach. But one day, its owners woke up to find it missing. Overnight, the beach — an estimated 400 meters’ worth, enough to fill roughly 500 truckloads — was gone. Stolen. The theft effectively halted the further development of the $100 million (U.S.) resort, as the attraction’s main feature was no longer.

Given the value of the sand, Jamaican officials investigated the theft intensely — according to the BBC, Jamaica’s Prime Minister at the time, Bruce Golding, insisted upon it. But unlike most large, expensive things stolen, finding a beach proved difficult if not impossible. After all, all one needs to do is have a predetermined smaller beach to dump it onto, and no one would be the wiser. The investigation continued for months, with police going so far as to take sand samples from other beaches to do a forensic analysis. But they came up empty.

It sounds like a perfect crime, but some believe that there’s a more insidious explanation. The logistics of such a heist are extraordinary. Where does one get dozens if not hundreds of trucks, without anyone noticing? And no one noticed a caravan of sand-hauling trucks driving around? Even if that went unnoticed, how do you find enough laborers to load and unload the sand without one of them telling someone else? All these questions, left unanswered, indicated to some that there could be police officers involved in the theft and a subsequent cover-up.

But in any event, no charges were ever brought.

Update: As it turns out, five people were arrested and charged with the theft of the sand, but in February of 2011, the charges against them were dropped, citing allegations that the complaining witness had been threatened with bodily harm if he testified. As of July 2011, a civil matter is on-going.

Bonus fact: Ever wonder what sand looks like under a microscope? It’s different depending on where it comes from (which is probably why the Jamaican police, above, were able to attempt some sort of forensic analysis), due to human elements, microscope creatures, and the surrounding environment. Via Discover Magazine, here is a slideshow of sand from around the world, magnified dozens of times.

From the ArchivesEphemeral Island: A beach in the South Pacific which comes and goes, all by itself.

RelatedWhite sand. 25 pounds of it for a tad over $20.

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